Sunday, August 30, 2009

Philleas Fogg: Life Lessons*

*As per challenge from Doug

I'll admit, this writing prompt was harder than the one for my junior writing portfolio at WSU: 'What is the True Meaning of the Word Hero?'(NOT MAKING THAT UP), but with a little help from Wikipedia and a brief distraction by a kitten with eyebrows, I think I'm now ready to tackle it.

I've never read Verne's Around the World in Eighty Days.I even suspected Doug of misspelling the name Philleas, which I had mistakenly thought was spelled 'Phinneas.' I may have also thought the character was a frog because his last name evoked it for me.All of these limitations come together to form my life lesson: Learning about things you have no knowledge of is humbling and then, later, it's fun to think about how wrong you were.I've never read this book,so instead here's some times I've learned a valuable lesson.

Some examples:

-Until college, I thought an alternative pronunciation of 'epitome' was 'epa-TOME' and that an 'epa-TOME' was the pinnacle of an epitome. ex. "Re-reading a John Grisham novel at your parents' house because you forgot to pack anything to read is the 'epatome' of desperation."

-I used to think Gran Marnier was pronounced Gran Mariner and may have said this out loud.

-On a trip to Dublin, I wanted to see the Forty Foot swimming hole mentioned in Ulysses, but I didn't know it was only for old men and that they preferred to swim in the nude. So I didn't know it would just be me and my friend Sarah, age 17, staring at naked old men. And offending them.

-Once, when working at Subway in high school, I was searching through some scrap wood, turning boards over to wrap and place one of those hideous party subs on. I noticed a co-worker was watching me and when he asked me what I was doing and I told him looking for holes, he asked "On...both...sides of each board?"

I don't know. There's a lot more times I've embarassed myself and learned from it, but this blog is starting to turn into a narrative hairshirt. The rest of this week, I'm either not writing about myself or only presenting myself in heroic, Howard Roark-ian terms.

With less than an hour to spare, here's your entry, Doug. Why again did I do this to myself exactly?

Friday, August 28, 2009

Nope. No. Huh-uh. NO.

If there's ever been a more cynically-crafted and calculating song written under the contemporary country banner (I'm looking at YOU, Rascall Flatts), I've yet to hear it. Although I admit, my visceral reaction to this song wasn't as bad as the first time I heard My Humps and I was incensed that they were obviously using a developmentally disabled girl to sing the chorus (ahem):

PS: Does this make them hipsters?

And Now, I'd Like To Perform For You My Red Skelton Comedy Routine

My heart longs to tell the story of the boy I would not let perform a Red Skelton skit at the camp talent show, but my brain reminds me that writing about kids has gotten many an educator in trouble.Firing trouble.

Please, friends, let this morsel be enough:

I refused to let an awkward teen perform a halting, unintentionally absurdist, seat-squirmingly uncomfortable, Andy Kaufman-esque interpretation of a Red Skelton comedy skit. IN THE YEAR 2009.

I am the Simon Leis of my own little world.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Throw Pillow of an Entry

So I've had the above postcard in a crappy Ikea frame following me around from apartment to apartment for over 10 years. The caption says "We keep buying things thinking 'that'll look better' and it just doesn't"

I keep it around because it makes me smile and also to remind me that buying stuff (unless it's books or food or plane tickets) almost never makes me feel better. I was reminded of it when I was sitting here trying to improve this blog that's been kicking around in my drafts for a week. I keep thinking of stuff to add to it to dress it up, make it more cohesive, funnier, you know -- better. But, I just can't.

Oh well, win some, lose some. I'm gonna post so my brain parts can move on.

Oy, has it been a terrible year in hip hop. I thought it was pretty dumb before I had to drive 12 pre-teens around for 8 weeks ("That's my CUT!") but afterwards, realized it was not only dumb, but bleak and miserly in its creativity, as well.

Some minor standouts:

Kanye's solo on Kid Cudi's Make Her Say:

Hold up! Born In 88....
How Old Is That?
Old Enough

David Banner on Anthony Hamilton's Cool:

But you the answer to my question
The 'eh to my dreams. You a radio killa
We can call our white friends up
and drink a Miller...

Jay-Z on Swagger Like Us:

No one on the corner got a bop like this
Can't wear skinny jeans
'cause my knots won't fit

And I'm pretty sure those last two came out in late 2008. Has there been anything good that I missed? Blech.

Monday, August 24, 2009

It's Getting Better All the Time

So I just started back to school and I'm really happy I've kept blogging here all summer and didn't let that part of my brain atrophy even in the midst of all the television watching I've managed to squeeze in. When I had to do my first academic writing tonight, I was happy how easily it came again when I had to flex those muscles. tells me that facile is an adverb and can be used in place of 'easily' but when I take easily away and add 'facile' into that last sentence, it sure doesn't sound right. I take back everything I said earlier about writing.

I also leave I Survived, Obsessed and Intervention long enough sometimes to go to the gym. On Monday nights, I have Pilates class which is pretty fun, but it may be the only time during my week I actually grimace in pain. Every time I fully extend my left leg, my hip pops out of its socket which I've been told over and over is 'no big deal.' Actually, I don't know that for sure, that's just what I say to myself every time it happens and I wince: itsnobigdealitsnobigdealitsnobigdeal.But tonight my teacher told me she could see me making tremendous progress. She said it to everyone in the class, but the rest of the ladies are old and they never really try very hard so, like the John Hinckley of my pilates class, I'm convinced she's talking directly to me, but IN CODE.

Finally, I'm calling it. Fall. Let's just start. This has been a really, really difficult summer for many of my friends and family. I say we give summer a long, last lingering kiss and then....goodbye.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

My Favorite Song by: Anthony Hamilton

Cornbread, Fish and Collard Greens is one of those songs that when I first heard it, a few years after its release, I felt angry I'd never heard it before. That's a good song and Anthony Hamilton is generally too overlooked anyway. It's a shame.Plus, there's food in the title. Reckanize:

Friday, August 21, 2009

The Husbands of Walnut Grove

For some time, it's been culturally accepted that one can learn a lot about a man from his choice in Charlie's Angel crush. I mean, that's cool and all, but it's kind of like choosing between three different beige paint samples. In the end, the winner is still a beige paint sample. Did that metaphor fall apart? No matter, it's time someone considered the female counterpoint to this phenomenon (and not involving Bo or Luke, preferably).

Aside from Them Duke Boys, the closest current parrallel I can think of would be the Window-into-the-Soul decision of which twin on The Hogan Family (never to be called 'Valerie,' she's dead to me)you most identified with. Hint: there is only one right answer, and that is Mark, obviously.

I say it's time for a new barometer for the ladies.Let's relax and take a trip to Walnut Grove....... but to whom would I devote my chaste attentions? I admit that as an 8 year old, my favorite was Almanzo though I now recognize this as folly. Let's consider them piecemeal....

Almanzo Wilder, husband of Laura Ingalls
Pro's: blondly-handsome, strapping, wore suspenders
Con's: Call Chris Hansen, because Laura was like 14 when they met (I think she was just going to put these clothes in the dryer and wondered if Almanzo would like some lemonade?)

Adam Kendall, husband of Mary Ingalls
Pro's: darkly-handsome, sharp dresser, sensitive, likes to feel your face
Con's: Adam episodes were the WORST for the melodrama and if living with him meant countless turgid violin solos playing as he stared into the mid-distance, no thank you

Which brings me to my choice:

PERCIVAL DALTON!, husband of Nellie Olsen

Pro's: opinionated,smart, non sass-taker, funny Jew
Con's: Only one--found Nellie Olsen appealing

The decision is obvious.

Oh Percival, you have my permission.

Mexican Magical Realism Camera

Worthy of a post all its own. Thank you, Tricia:

"Same thing happened to me last year when I bought that RV where it was always rainin' inside."

Thursday, August 20, 2009


Rifling through your parents' things can sometimes yield unexpected treasures, like biographies written at age 4 and dictated to a nursery school teacher. The text above reads:

"When I grow up, I'll be a fire lady and put out fires. I'll make a lot of money and buy a car- a Chevrolet. I will not get married.I will have 3 children. I'll call them Will, Susie and Strawberry. I'll live in a trailer and I'll play a violin. I will go to St. Louis on vacation."

Some true points:
1. I DO put out fires. ALL fucking day long. Ask my co-workers.
2. I do make a decent amount of money for the non-profit field, which is sad.
3. I am not married.
4. I did play the violin.
5. I have gone to St. Louis on vacation

Not bad at all.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

My Favorite Song by: Alejandro Escovedo.... not available on youtube. It's called Pissed Off 2 am, if you're interested. It's a title and a song I think everybody can relate to. In lieu of that, I give you this clip of Escovedo playing a still-terrific song on the patio of a bar he presumably had played at, as people load shit around him. He's one of those singers that sound exactly the same live as on an album, which is rare in my opinion. Fun fact: Many people are aware that Escovedo is none other than Sheila E's uncle (who by the way, looks absolutely banging at age 51) but how many know that he is ALSO Nicole Richie's biological uncle? Isn't that interesting? Doesn't it seem like she should have more talent than she does? But I digress.

My Favorite Song by: John Cale

A new segment (blogment?), in which I don't particularly feel like writing and instead, ask you to indulge me in a youtube clip of a favorite song by a favorite artist. Tonight, a twofer. But let's start with John Cale. Cale's album Vintage Violence is one of my all time favorites and in particular, this song. What it lacks in visuals, it makes up for in

Monday, August 17, 2009

Better Than Sleep

I wait for them to go to bed, but not just the first time. There’ll be ups and downs. In the meantime, I'll lie on the floor and watch tv so quietly, I have to strain to hear it. She can sleep some nights, uninterrupted, for 15 hours at a time. Other nights, a creak on the stairs is enough to wake the whole household for hours. These waits are the hardest.

I wait expectantly these nights and impatiently. Their sleep offers me admission, but my body is a co-conspirator. Inside it, a lagging Pacific circadian reminds me I’m out of place again. I’ll be up all night and always asking the same question. These things happened, right?

I-75 runs through their backyard and across it, planted improbably in an old corn field, sits a mosque. There were some concerns when the farmer finally sold. Near-native son Muhammad Ali came for its dedication. Sometimes, the police cruiser doesn't even have to stay the night anymore. It’s changing here. Likely as a concession to the neighbors, the Mosque only broadcasts the call to prayer during Ramadan. Rarely, I’ll be home in late summer and I can hear the muezzin.

I'll put down my things and I’ll walk outside and listen.

Make haste towards worship
Prayer is better than sleep
I bear witness

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

In Between Blog, Trying To Scheme Blog

This rambling effort marks my 50th post! It's been a difficult blogging week because all of my personal reserves are tied up in making it through this work week. It's been a long time since I've been the sole entertainer of kids for 5-6 hour stretches and I'm convinced the only person that likes being 'on' that much is Robin Williams on a 70's coke bender. I have exhausted all free possibilities for pre-teen youth within a 30 minute driving radius and reached my idea nadir when, on a foggy day last week, I just drove them to a cemetery and told them it was haunted. Then we did grave rubbings. This seemed sufficient.

This week we were invited, photo-op style, to Safeco Field to learn about steroids (*COUGH*potcallingthekettleblack*COUGH*). About 80 of us got to sit ...fieldside(?)and hear a talk from a trainer who'd lost a brother to steroid abuse. Despite my cynical mien, the talk was sincere and pretty affecting, or at least it was up until the point when he asked for crowd participation on a question about steroids' effects and some kids from the Police Athletic League said "It makes you grow TITTIES!" and then couldn't stop laughing.So......

After that, relief pitcher Mark Lowe, rakishly handsome in jeans that cost $mycarpayment, talked to us about how he developed diabetes. He's only 26 and just found out two seasons ago that he had the disease. He delivered a pretty good talk, making a tangible connection between his formerly poor eating habits and his culpability in developing the disease. He's very skinny in person and talked about carb regulation a lot. One of the most fascinating aspects of his talk was that he said, as a relief pitcher, he has to be ready at a moment's notice to go into the game and so he has to spend a lot of time checking his blood sugar in the dugout. Once he gets the warning he will be up to pitch in a while, he checks it one last time and either eats or injects so that he is in his ideal blood sugar pitching window. This seems like a hassle and you have to give him credit for what a pain in the butt this must be. Also, when a developmentally disabled girl asked a really long, rambling question, he gallantly answered and even made a joke to make her feel more comfortable. I can't express how this basic kindness made me feel relieved. I'm not sure that professional athletes are held to even the most basic standards of civil behavior, so him going above and beyond made me pleased.

Finally (FINALLY), we were allowed out onto the field and got to have M's first base coach (and former Mariner, Red Sox, Phillies and then Mariners again player)Lee Tinsley run us through warmups that despite their doofy appearance, made me sweaty and winded in no time.The best Tinsley moment was when I overheard a spirited debate between some of my kids as to whether or not Tinsley was Ken Griffey Jr. Clearly, these kids did not grow up in the Junior era.

Then, one of the trainers came to take us through some different exercises, though his main role was to answer the roughly 250 Ichiro-related questions the kids had. Here's some of what I learned:

-Ichiro is the most disciplined player this trainer has seen in 27 years
-Ichiro goes to bed and wakes at exactly the same times everyday, whereupon
-Ichiro eats the same breakfast every day prior to
-Ichiro doing the same morning calisthenics before
-Ichiro drives to the ballpark to work out
-Also, Ichiro is the only player that works out daily on the road (how could this be true, I wonder)
-Ichiro's body fat is 5.8%, the lowest on the team
-Ichiro regularly tells his trainer he plans on playing until he is 50 and they don't think he's kidding

On our way out, the kids were each given an autographed picture of Mark Lowe and I stood in line for mine, too, because I could. We were also given a promotional poster of a kids' Jackie Robinson night from 2003, because...not sure. I took that, too.

I had a very big day.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Thursdays With Morrie

I just had the following heartwarming conversation with an elderly man at Subway. Let's call him Morrie:

Morrie: (remarking on my UK t-shirt) KENTUCKY! That's where I grew up!
Me: Oh really? Where?
Morrie: Ft. Mitchell!
Me: Oh, I'm from Cincinnati.

Awkward pause.

Me: Do you ever miss it?
Morrie: ......What? No! I mean, you've been other places, right? There's a lot more to see in the world than that place.
Me: I hear you.

So, here's a question for you guys. Since I've had some recent success getting validation from other friends (ok, just Pam) that she too can feel/sense other people's vibrations (*blogjumpingtheshark*), I'm interested in knowing, can you discern the atmospheric differences in different parts of the country you visit? Before I go further, allow me to acknowledge that I am aware I sound like a nutball. For instance, when I think back to different states I've lived in, I can recall not only sights and smells, but also the kind of twing or hum I felt in my head when I was there.It doesn't have anything to do with how much I like or dislike a place.

If you think I'm crazy, consider this:

A man named FLIP SPICELAND backs me up on this. I'm not sure if I'm happier about this or the fact that the website where I found this thinks that if I like that video, I may also be interested in one called, "How to masturbate as a women," sic, obviously.

Oh, and the atmospheric twing I associate with Kentucky might be described as "sinusylethargicdrone."

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Fall Party


1 VHS copy Legend of Sleepy Hollow (if not available, replace with It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown)
2 Pumpkins (carved)
6-10 Maple Bars
Apples, assorted
Sweaters, any variety
1 store bought pumpkin pie, gross crusts removed
Cider, alcoholic or otherwise

Mix with smell of burning leaves, let steep in nostalgia. Repeat yearly.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Joy and Pain

This compelling visual juxtaposition below is pretty much a scene right out of my life. The dancing lady is me, minding my own (as you do) and the fighting juiceboxes represent my scary-ass neighbors. Not just one set of neighbors, mind you, but an entire building of, as my dad abbreviates it, NLC's (or, No Library Card). By an accident of zoning or ill providence, our two buildings face one another across an alley. Directly. About 12 feet apart. Their building is like one of those Richard Scarry cross sections where you can see what people are up to as they go about their daily lives. As my friend Kiley best described it upon seeing it for the first time, "Oh no. Bedsheets used as curtains means dysfunction."

And without further ado:

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Issues Facing White People

So I've noticed a disconcerting trend at my local farmer's market (farmers' market? I don't really know where the apostrophe goes). One aspect of the trend, Parade of Dogs, I can totally get behind. I love dogs. I frankly can't get enough of them and consider a dog's absence from my life a much greater misfortune than my lingering singletude.I think all dogs, small and yippy, large and foreboding, are worthy of love.Which brings me to my concern: the escalating exotic breed oneupsmanship that I see going on amongst all those out buying swiss chard and goat flesh out of Coleman coolers from strangers.

I have never before seen, in person, some of the breeds I've seen this summer at the market. Great Pyranees, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Bouvier des Flanders (look it up), to name a few. And these aren't even the ones that weird me out. No, it's the giant dogs. The Irish Wolfhounds, the Neapolitan Mastiffs, the Newfoundlands (miserable looking in the heat), and last week, the Leonberger. I know these names because I ask the owners who invariably seem a little annoyed to constantly be answering questions about their dogs, but COME ON. When your dog is the size of a Smart Car, it draws attention and you love it. You know you do, weirdos.

And there's nothing wrong with pure breed dogs. I get it. But the sheer number of such unusual dogs (and of such heft and general thickness) is starting to make the dog ownership feel kind of icky and fetishistic to me, like all the white guys in Seattle who only date Asian girls. The dog trend is particularly galling given the staggering number of healthy dogs that have to be euthanized at shelters. It's all enough to make me paraphrase Jennifer Aniston's take on Brad after he left her: I think they must have a sensitivity chip missing or something.I didn't think this blog would ever see a Jennifer Aniston quote, but there it is.